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Open Access Laughter and collective awareness: The cinema auditorium as public space

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This article looks at how the collective experience of laughter in the movie theater is related to the idea of the cinema as a public space. Through the non-verbal expression of laughter the audience ‘constructs’ a public space the viewers may not have been aware of to the same degree prior to the collective public expression. Moreover, the public space created through laughter allows for an expedient type of monitoring: inappropriate laughter may be exposed in front of others. With viewers who laugh approvingly about racist violence or misogynist jokes, we can easily lay bare the ethical implications.
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Keywords: Charles Taylor; Walter Benjamin; cinema; collective experience; laughter

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Julian Hanich is Assistant Professor of Film Studies at the University of Groningen. From 2009 to 2012 he held a position as a postdoctoral research fellow at the interdisciplinary research center Languages of Emotion at Free University Berlin. In 2010 he published a monograph on the phenomenology of fear at the movies titled Cinematic Emotion in Horror Films and Thrillers: The Aesthetic Paradox of Pleasurable Fear (New York: Routledge). He co-edited a volume of the German online journal Nach dem Film on Laughter in the Movie Theater (October 2010) and a book on filmic suggestion and the viewer’s imagination titled Auslassen, Andeuten, Auffüllen. Der Film und die Imagination des Zuschauers (Paderborn: Fink, 2012). His articles have appeared in Screen, Projections, Film-Philosophy, Jump Cut, The New Review of Film and Television Studies, Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, Montage/AV, Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft, and Amerikastudien/American Studies.

Publication date: September 1, 2014

More about this publication?
  • NECSUS is an international, double-blind peer reviewed journal of media studies connected to NECS (European Network for Cinema and Media Studies) and published by Amsterdam University Press. The journal is multidisciplinary and strives to bring together the best work in the field of media studies across the humanities and social sciences. We aim to publish research that matters and that improves the understanding of media and culture inside and outside the academic community. Each volume includes feature articles, a special thematic section, a video essay section, and a reviews section that covers books, festivals, and exhibitions. NECSUS is targeted to a broad readership of researchers, lecturers, and students, and will be offered as a biannual open access, online journal.

    The journal is published in Open Access, with the following Creative Commons copyright license: Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

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